HAVE you ever heard of these strange people? I hear many voices already answering, O yes, we know about them. They live in Lapland, a country in the northern part of Russia; and wrapped closely in their furs, they drive the reindeer over the frozen snow.

Probably you have all seen pictures of them in your geographies, and have learned several things about them; but if you will go with me to their far-away homes in the cold, frozen regions of the north, we may learn something more about them.

You will find there no long stretches of fertile prairie, green meadows, and waving grain. Yet the Laplander, on the bleak and desolate mountainside, in his tent of reindeer skin, is as happy as any of us. In that cold country the day is six months long, and it is also their summer time. But the winter night is also six months long. Just think of it! How glad they must be to see the sun rise!

There are three classes of the Lapps, "the mountain, the wood, and the fisher Lapps. The mountain Lapps are the wealthiest class, their property consisting of herds of reindeer. The fisher Lapps, live in abject poverty and wretchedness. The wood Lapps are the intermediate class, herding the reindeer in winter and fishing in summer. They are a dwarfish race. The men do not exceed five feet in height, many not even reaching four feet, and the women are considerably shorter.

They are thick-set and clumsy; their skin is tawny; and their long, dark hair, falling in dangling masses, adds to their wild look.

The dwellings of the mountain Lapps are constructed of poles tied together at the top, and extending outward and downward at the base, which is scarcely ever more than six feet in diameter.

In summer they are covered with a coarse cloth, and in winter with an addition of skins. The hearth is a pile of stones in the center, and in the roof immediately above is a square opening for the escape of smoke and the admission of snow, rain, and air. The dairy, or storehouse, is outside of the tent. It is nothing more than a shelf raised between two trees, so as to be out of the reach of dogs and wolves. There they keep their supply of curds, cheese, and dried reindeer meat. Their food in summer is milk and cheese; in winter, the fat and meat of the reindeer.

In the warmer weather they wear a tunic of coarse cloth, which reaches to the knees, and is fastened at the waist with a belt, or girdle. In winter they are so packed up in skins that they look more like bears than human beings. Their boots or shoes are made of the raw skin of the reindeer, with the hair outward. These shoes are very thin, yet the Laplander wears no stockings.

His shoes are lined with the Cyprus grass. It is placed in his shoes, so that it not only protects his feet from the cold, but his legs also. But as it wards off the cold in winter:, so in the summer it keeps the feet cool, and is consequently used at all seasons. The dress of both men and women is alike, but the women are more ornamented with rings and chains.

The daily occupation of the mountain Lapp is the herding of reindeer. The families are far apart; for the lichen or moss on which the reindeer feeds is scant, and grows very slowly. They seldom camp at one place longer than two weeks. When the pasturage is fully exhausted, the tent is taken to pieces, and in less than a half an hour packed, with all the household furniture, upon the backs of the reindeer, which, bound together five and five are led by the women over the mountains. The father of the family precedes the march to select a proper place for the new encampment, and his sons or servants follow with the remainder of the herd.

Living thus apart from the civilized world, the Lapps are extremely superstitious. They have those among them who claim to be religious teachers, but they are doubtless as ignorant as the people themselves. Efforts have been made to teach them the gospel of Christ, but they still pay secret homage to their gods, and faithfully believe in ghosts, witchcraft, and above all in Trolls, the evil spirit of the woods. The Aurora Borealis fills them with terror, for they believe it to be a sign of divine wrath. They generally shout and howl during the whole duration of the grand phenomenon.

They believe the bear is the most cunning and gifted of all created beings. They suppose that he hears all that is said about him, and take care never to say anything disrespectful of him. But the excellent flavor of the meat, and the value of the fur, sometimes prove too great a temptation, so they venture to slay him. This they do with great ceremony, and afterward bury his remains, thinking he will be resurrected. They detest wolves, believing them to be creatures of the devil, and never use a gun to kill them, as it would ever afterward be accursed. They use clubs to kill them, and then bury the clubs.

In winter they not only travel in their sledges drawn by reindeer, but also on foot, by using "skids," or skates. They are usually as long as the person who wears them, and with these the Laplander flies over the snow with the rapidity of a bird, scaling the mountains and darting down the valleys. Strange as this mode of life seems, they love their wild wanderings, and cannot be induced to leave their country. A Polish nobleman traveling in Russian Lapland took a Lapp girl with him to St. Petersburg, where she received superior training, and made rapid progress. She seemed perfectly reconciled to her new home; but after a while, seeing a Lapp family with a herd of reindeer near the great city, she was possessed with a great longing to return home. She began to decline in health, and finally disappeared. It was found, upon inquiry, that she had returned to her family. Another story, is told of a young Lapp who enlisted in a regiment passing through his country. After twenty years of service in the Swedish army, he at length attained the rank of captain. But he had a strong desire to visit his family and country. Scarcely had he seen his native mountains, and spent a few days among his countrymen and the reindeer, than he at once quitted the service, and resumed the wandering life of his youth.

A writer in describing this country says: "Lapland is rich in grand and picturesque features. In summer, countless rivulets meander through valleys of Alpine verdure, and broad, pellucid rivers rush down the slope's in thundering cataracts, embracing islands clothed with pine trees of incomparable dignity and grace. Whoever has grown up in scenes like these, and been 'accustomed from infancy to the uncontrolled freedom of the nomad state, receives impressions never to be erased; and thus we cannot wonder that the wild Laplander believes his country to be a terrestrial paradise, and feels no where happy but at home."




E. L. R.